Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage expands support for Yale Collections, future scholar pipeline

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH) has expanded its efforts to research, innovate, and train the next generation of conservation scientists with the appointment of Marcie Wiggins as inaugural Diana Luv Chen Fellow, it has been announced.

A member of the Institute’s Technical Studies Lab, Wiggins will carry out material analysis to address questions about objects in Yale’s collections, which emerge during their sMarcie Wigginscholarly study, conservation, and use in teaching and exhibition.

“For many young researchers who pursue a career in the cultural heritage field, the moment when they complete their postdoctoral work is a key turning point in their career as it can be challenging to find positions at the next level in this specialized work,” said Anikó Bezur, Wallace S. Wilson Director of the Technical Studies Lab. “We are committed to retaining talented young scientists to support collection-facing and collection-inspired research that can have a real impact on the field,” she said.

Thanks to a gift from Diana Luv Chen, funding for the new fellowship provides valuable support for young researchers to immerse themselves in impactful projects and build the skills that help them to take the next career steps as conservation scientists.

“We have already seen a great impact from the work of Marcie Wiggins,” noted Paul Messier, who completes his role as Chair of the IPCH this spring. “I am immensely grateful to Diana for her support, and excited to strengthen our scientific team to help steward Yale’s collections responsibly,” he said.

Wiggins earned a BS in chemistry and art history at the University of Maryland-College Park in 2014, receiving her PhD in analytical chemistry at the University of Delaware in 2019 studying copper-based pigments via spectroscopic methods in collaboration with Winterthur Museum. She has held internships at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, and the Rijksmuseum. During her postdoctoral position at Yale, Wiggins developed expertise in the large-area elemental mapping of artworks and the interpretation of the collected data. She completed research projects involving Chinese wall painting fragments, painted textiles, and Jain religious manuscript folios from western India, and contributed to an analysis of Chinese jewelry featured in the Yale University Art Gallery exhibition “Ceremonial Dress from Southwest China: The Ann B. Goodman Collection.”

The study of the material components of artifacts is relevant for both their preservation and interpretation, providing insight into their creation and use through time. Understanding what was used to create an object and how those materials have changed over time is essential for guiding decisions about their use in teaching and exhibitions and in future treatment planning.

In recent years, the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, which is located at Yale’s West Campus, has expanded its teaching mission at the intersection of science, humanities, and the arts in partnership with faculty and collections staff across Yale. Working closely with students and with early-career conservators who pursue postgraduate work at Yale, the Diana Luv Chen Fellow will provide sustained mentorship to the next generation of diverse cultural heritage conservators.